The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Morsi's Anti-Semitic Rant Comes to Light

Either Egyptian President Morsi is a vicious hater or a totally unprincipled demagogue. Possibly both. The trouble is that nobody can be a democratically elected president of Egypt who isn’t at least one of these things.

First noticed by Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic and then eventually picked up by the NY Times and other mainstream outlets, here’s what happened:

Earlier this month, the Middle East Media Research Institute posted video taken in 2010 of Egypt’s current president, Mohamed Morsi, calling Jews the ‘descendants of apes and pigs.’

The Jerusalem Post provided this summary of his remarks:

” . . . Morsi denounced the Palestinian Authority as a creation of “the Zionist and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people.” Therefore, he stressed, “No reasonable person can expect any progress on this track.”

“Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war,” Morsi said, “This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know—these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.” (You can watch Morsi deliver these remarks here.)

Richard Behar, at Forbes, watched what happened once these atrocious remarks were made public:

I studied the Pigs-and-Apes story’s journey and trajectory through America over the past week with Sue Radlauer, the Director of Research Services here at Forbes. We gave it seven days to see if any of the so-called “mainstream media”—a pejorative phrase that too-often obscures more than it reveals—bestowed the hate speech even a few sentences of back-page ink. Nothing.

Morsi, to give him credit, is a tactical hater rather than a deranged one. He understands that giving free rein to the darker elements of his agenda would wreck his government. Egypt depends on military and economic aid from abroad. Also, while many in the army fully share his views about Jews, militarily Egypt can’t handle another war with Israel and would suffer another defeat if it tried. As head of state, Morsi isn’t giving full vent to his inner feelings and doesn’t allow his visceral hatred of Jews and of their state to influence his policy past a certain point.

Morsi’s anti-Semitic views are not surprising in themselves; indeed they are completely mainstream and unobjectionable in the Egyptian context. Not many people in Egypt would disagree with the statements in question, and Morsi is more likely to be attacked for being too soft on Israel than for venting his spleen. But these statements, and the widespread support for them, should remind everyone just how slim the chances are for real peace between Israel and its neighbors.

There are a lot of illusions out there about how the exercise of power will moderate the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups. To some degree, Morsi’s record in office shows a pragmatic willingness to maintain a treaty he deeply loathes with the “sons of apes and pigs.” But we would do better to think of this as caution rather than moderation. If a real opportunity presented itself to destroy the Jewish state, there can be little doubt that Morsi and the members of his movement would think it their duty to act.

For Israel, the lesson is obvious. For the foreseeable future it must depend upon strength rather than trust if it intends to survive.

Published on January 15, 2013 9:40 am